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The International Writers Magazine: Philippines

Bad Christmas Travel
Merry Malapascua
• John M Edwards

The joys of off-season travel, anytime except for Christmas, on a depopulated paradise in the Philippines


I plopped down by a muscular coffee-complected local lad called “Boy” (a common name in the Philippines) and wriggled my toes in the powdery white sand of Bounty Beach, cut like a generous line of blow on an island you can walk around in a few hours. Ramon, the energetic manager of the Blue Water Beach Resort, walked over with a cannaballistic smile to remind me it was lunchtime again. “Adobo” (the Philippines national dish) again, plus Kalamansi juice, made with Ping-Pong-ball-sized limes. Already a month in to my stay on Malapascua (“Bad Christmas”), named by Magellan midway through the world’s first circumnavigation before he was killed by the fierce forces of Chief Lapu Lapu (off nearby Mactan Island), I wasn’t about to make any changes to the idyllic daily routine of castaway life.

Certainly one of the loneliest islands I’d ever been stuck on, with traditional nipa huts right on the beach for only a Jackson a night, Malapascua, I deemed, was the perfect place to spend pre- and post-Christmas away from my rellies. I had decided, though, to purposely miss the “Stations of the Cross Festival” (spoken of in apocryphal whispers), wherein some poor Filipino slob succumbs to a real actual crucifixion.
Which adds new meaning to devout, I guess?!

Nary a soul here aside from some Australian expats from Cebu showing off their Filipina mail-order brides. With tourism at low tide, mostly German backpackers arriving by outriggers and clutching their Lonely Planet guides, I’d finally found a paradise that didn’t pick my pockets.
No crime. No sights. No banks.

But still the locals provide “events” such as beauty pageants for little kids or makeshift cockfights of spurred roosters swaggering around like Mick and Keith.

Basically, the main thing to do here is eat fresh seafood extracted by local fishermen—"lapu lapu" or "samin samin"—at such fancifully named venues as Ging Ging’s Flower Garden, basically two picnic tables dumped in the sand. The coral reefs have been damaged by dynamite fishing, and Boy lamented, “In my grandfather’s time there were many fish. . . .” He then put on his barong tagalog—the Philippine’s sporty answer to the Hawaiian shirt--and wandered off like a conundrum.

At Loida’s, owned by a bearded German expat who was even after Reunification suspicious of East Germans, I had the chance to try imported non-Philippines fare and fine Rhine Reisling wine. As the stars lit up across the sky, numerous as Imelda Marco’s shoes, Loida introduced me to the local philosopher.

Mala2 Standing like "Burning Man" beneath the flickering Tikki Torch, the philosopher intoned in a deep Bible baritone, “There is only one race: the human race!” With this in mind, listening to the keening wind and whooshing waves, as well as the shrill mosquito whistle of spirits declining the reincarnation cycle, the gangsta rappas of bugs, I decided I wanted to keep this island a well-kept secret.

Even so, now I’m snitching on it anyway to finally secure a credit from "The Smart Set" or "In the Know Traveler" for my WIP bio. . . .

© John M. Edwards, August 2012

Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely (five continents plus), with stunts ranging from surviving a ferry sinking off Siam, to being stuck in a military coup in Fiji, to bussing Vietnam on a Larium buzz.

How to Land a Spot in the Best American Travel Anthology
John M Edwards

Sloane Crosley can be congratulated for reintroducing us to authors not usually associated with travel magazines

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